By Carleton Varney- Special to the Palm Beach Daily News
Drive north from Midtown along North Way Lake and you are sure to see a pair of very large ant-like insects cast in bronze, once displayed on the grounds of Palm Beach International Airport but since returned to their owner, the sculptor Susan Phipps Cochran. The insects stand sentry at the entrance to Casa Phippsberger, the estate she shares with her husband, landscape artist and man-about-everything Robert Eigelberger.
Called Bob by his friends, he’s the gardener extraordinaire who created and maintains the couple’s personal Garden of Eden. While hanging out at home during the coronavirus crisis, this gentleman of the garden has been busy rearranging parts of the landscape.
Bob tells me there are 60 to 70 specimens of palms on the estate, along with handsome specimens of yellow, white and pink plumeria that bring a lovely fragrance to the property.
And did you know that plumeria is an easy tree to reproduce? Bob tells me that one only has to plant a branch or two in the soil and wait. I’m going to take his advice and plant a few branches. Why not?
On my recent visit to Casa Phippsberger — all the while safely social distancing — Susie gave me a few good words of flora advice as well: “Keep desert rose plants out of the rain,” she cautioned. (The plants don’t like much water, hence their name.)
The landscape is so lush that parts of it seem like a jungle where Tarzan himself would have been content. There are magical trees of great dimension with abundant Spanish moss. I saw masses of elephant ear plants and hanging ferns — and, of course, orchids, orchids, and more orchids.
Just sitting by the pool on the property is a joy. The landscape appears beautifully tended but also wonderfully natural — nature at its very best, thanks to the hard work, watchful eye and brilliant imagination of Bob Eigelberger.